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Does Workplace Discrimination Need to be Intentional to Violate the Law?

Posted on December 19, 2016 Author:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives thousands of workplace discrimination complaints every year. We often think of discrimination as an “intentional act.” You may imagine a boss or colleague firing or demoting workers based on the color of their skin, gender or national origin. However, there are cases where employers are guilty of unintentional discrimination. Even if it wasn’t intended, this type of discrimination may still be illegal.

What Does Unintentional Discrimination Look Like?

One of the most common ways employers unintentionally discriminate is by enacting supposedly “neutral” policies that have a disproportionate effect on certain groups. This is known as disparate impact discrimination.

For example, an employer may have physical job requirements that are more difficult for women. In many cases, these policies appear to be neutral, but upon closer examination, are discriminatory.

Disparate impact discrimination can also occur during the hiring process. The EEOC’s example is a “no-beard” rule, which would have a disproportionate effect on African Americans. According to the EEOC, African Americans have higher rates of pseudofolliculitis, a skin condition aggravated by shaving.

What Should You Do If Targeted by Unintentional Discrimination?

Workers and jobseekers can file complaints with the EEOC. Depending on the circumstances, the EEOC may launch an investigation. The EEOC may attempt to reach a settlement after its investigation. Despite whatever decision the EEOC makes, there may be other options for workers who have been harmed by discriminatory policies.

It may be necessary to contact an attorney. If you have been wrongfully terminated from your position due to a supposedly neutral workplace policy, it is important to explore your legal options.

The Los Angeles labor law attorneys at Kesluk, Silverstein, Jacob & Morrison, P.C. can help workers hold businesses accountable for discriminatory policies.